Identity theft affects hundred of thousands of people each year, and this trend is getting progressively worse. Identity theft costs financial institutions R1 billion per year
Businesses are targeted more often than individuals because it’s more lucrative; criminals can gain access to larger credit lines and more resources.
A thief only needs a few pieces of data to ruin you financially, and that data is often obtained through the security breaches. IBM claims more than one billion records
were leaked in 2014 alone.
The following tips are intended to help you prevent identity theft, and mitigate the damage if it happens to you.1. Don’t believe every piece of mail you receive
Criminals often run scams where they send the consumer a letter that appears to be from a legitimate company. The letter asks the consumer to start sending their payments to a new address. The scam goes on until the consumer gets a call from the company asking why they haven’t been making their payments.
If you get this kind of letter in the mail, verify the information immediately. Don’t call the number on the letter. Call the number you know to be the company’s official number, and ask them to verify the details you’ve received.2. Know what to do when you’ve been compromised
When your identity has been stolen, you need to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible.
Lexington Law outlines several important steps
to take the moment you discover your identity has been stolen. These steps include filing a police report and contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you do business as a U.S. entity, this is vital.
In addition to cancelling existing credit cards, you need to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. “A fraud alert notifies lenders and creditors that your identity has been compromised. Often an identity thief will attempt to extend credit, and this flag will warn the credit bureaus to be on the watch for suspicious activity.”
There is also an option for an extended fraud alert, which remains in effect for seven years. You’ll be allowed to obtain two free credit reports each year and “your name will be removed from credit offer marketing lists for five years.”
This won’t prevent fraudsters from opening a credit card in your name, but it will prevent them from responding to pre-approved offers.3. Never enter credit card information over public Wi-Fi
You should never, under any circumstances, enter your credit card information over public or unsecured Wi-Fi. A website using https doesn’t guarantee a secure Wi-Fi connection. In theory, your data should be encrypted, but you’re at the mercy of how secure their connection has been built.4. Check your credit reports regularly
Whether it’s free or not, checking your credit report regularly is vital. You need to know, as soon as possible, if something is wrong.5. Control your business purchases tightly
You may have trustworthy, responsible employees carrying a corporate credit card, but how they make their purchases can compromise your business. Regardless of how trustworthy your staff members are, you need to create a policy for how business purchases can be made.
For example, purchases on the internet should only be made in the office while connected to a secure Wi-Fi connection. You should never allow credit card numbers to be written down and processed later.6. Shred your documents vertically and horizontallyAccording to Gianmarco Lorenzi
, Cleardata’s managing director, the easiest way for criminals to steal your corporate identity is by going through your rubbish. Lorenzi cautions, “Business records of any kind should never be put into a general waste of recycling bin where it may be accessed by criminals intent on identity theft; instead, all business records that are no longer needed should be shredded.”
It’s not enough to shred your documents into strips. You need a cross-cut shredder for optimal protection. 7. Monitor your monthly bills
An identity thief will take all they can get. Investigate all monthly bills you receive. Make sure they’re legitimate and are services you’re actually using. Identity thieves are sneaky. You might be paying two bills from the same company, but only one is legitimately yours.